8 Healthcare Professionals Share How They Practice Self-Care During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The superheroes of 2020 don't wear actual capes – they wear scrubs.

Human Interest

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new meaning to the word 'superhero.' Superman and his homies can't hold a candle to the healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, bank tellers, mail carriers, truckers, non-profit employees, civil service workers and the many more brave people who are at the forefront through this era of heaviness. Every day they sacrifice their wellness for the safekeeping of mankind.

In under two months, the United States is now the epicenter for the coronavirus disease with the number of cases rising daily. Shelter-in-place mandates and social distancing policies have become the new normal as we work together to flatten the curve. Then, there are the extra special people who work double-digit shifts delivering the best care to their patients. No matter the conditions – lack of supplies, overflowing hospitals, less time with family, sleep deprivation – they show up and they give every cell of their being to saving lives. Maybe the new normal is extreme resilience with a healthy cup of self-care.

We know that self-care has never been more important than right now because you can't pour from an empty cup. So we asked eight healthcare professionals what self-care looks like for them. Keep reading to see how they remain motivated along with some bright spots that push back the darkness.

Rose-Krystel Hegngi

Photo Courtesy of Rose-Krystel Hegngi

Emergency Medicine Resident Physician
Baton Rouge, LA

"I recently started yoga (something I've been wanting to do for years). I'm in the very beginner stages but it's so rewarding. My work schedule hasn't really changed at all, but now on the few off days I have each month I take time to stretch and meditate since it's easy to do at home now that gyms are closed.

"The overwhelming support from companies locally and nationwide offering support and goods and free food for those working during this time has been amazing! Recently, we got an email stating medical students at LSU were volunteering to help residents with daily household responsibilities such as running errands, grocery shopping and even childcare while we work if we're feeling overwhelmed. The good that hard times bring out in other people makes me smile!

"The idea that I am doing what God has called me to do, helping others [keeps me going]. Wouldn't have it any other way— it's a privilege and an honor."

Nonee Ngazimbi

Photo Courtesy of Nonee Ngazimbi

APRN/Nurse Practitioner
West Hartford, CT

"This has been a high-stress time for healthcare workers especially when we see our colleagues, young or older, dying from COVID-19. Everyone is anxious and morale continues to dwindle as we come to the realities of this pandemic; not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and not enough system support to support an influx of ill patients when they come.

"At work, one of my colleagues led out in a mindfulness exercise the other day. Another, brought in an aromatherapy lotion we can use periodically throughout the day to center our energy. I have been working on adequate hydration, eating well, and being intentional about being a helping hand to my friends, family, and colleagues. My colleagues and I started a group chat were we share fact-based information daily such as the newest research and policies that are coming out; helps to ease the anxiety. Lastly, my skincare routine remains the highlight of my personal day. Fresh out of a steamy shower, I always lotion my body from head to toe. I then indulge in a step-by-step facial routine to keep my skin firm, clear, and hydrated. These things are keeping me grounded and secure spiritually, physically, and emotionally right now.

"Local businesses and even former patients have poured out their love and support for us by sending us treats, lunch, dinner, cards and way more! It feels so wonderful to know that you are supported by your community. Also, we have received donations from everywhere with masks and other personal protective equipment since we are nationally short. That has been a huge blessing in the midst of this chaos.

"Every now again, I am reminded why I entered into this helping profession. My experience in various intensive care units in the last seven years has prepared me in every way for such a time as this. Praise the Lord I have the knowledge and the skills and now it really feels like [it is] my duty to humanity to utilize those to bless others."

Khaalisha Ajala

Photo Courtesy of Khaalisha Ajala

Assistant Professor of Medicine Emory Univ. & Grady Memorial Hospital Nonprofit Founder of Heartbeats & HipHop, Inc. Atlanta, GA

"I'm practicing self-care by doing my best to stay prepared during this COVID-19 pandemic where the U.S. now has the highest cases in the world. I care directly for patients who have or are have been tested for COVID-19. How do I try to stay prepared? I try to stay up-to-date on reputable medical literature, remain in daily communication with hospital leadership on the plan for our patients on a daily basis, stay as protected with proper personal protective equipment to decrease my chances of contracting COVID-19 and practice good hand hygiene.

"Also, I cry when needed, rest when needed and know that I can be vulnerable to/with my colleagues and husband as we all try to fight this pandemic and take care of our patients who are battling COVID-19 and other illnesses that bring them to the hospital.

"I'm also a DJ and when I'm not working at Grady or doing global health work in Ethiopia or Thailand, DJing is a mental health practice for me. My bright spot was tuning into D-Nice's IG live session after a really challenging day at work. I danced with 100,000 of my closest friends and witnessed the healing power of music. As a doctor and a DJ, I loved it. For a moment, I was actually the patient and 'the DJ saved my life!' He saved many others by having a social distance party. Go figure!"

Ashley Cockrell

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Cockrell

Family Nurse Practitioner
Houston, TX

"I have an attitude of gratitude for my current health and for my job – it is the mainstay each day and what keeps me sane. After a long day of caring for others, it is even more important to take care of myself. I've learned that self-care is giving the world the best of you and not what's left of you. As soon as I get home from work, I take my puppy for a walk and enjoy the outdoors. I also unwind by lighting my favorite candles and enjoying my favorite music in my favorite place in the house – the couch! It is equally important for me to decompress from the day and clear my mind by engaging meditating practices. My favorite mindfulness apps include Calm, Insight timer, and Headspace.

"One moment that made my heart smile was after performing COVID-19 testing for a patient who appeared severely sick. She informed me that she stood in line at several other testing sites for hours and was eventually turned away due to high volume. Once she arrived, she was extremely thankful because not only did we get her in and out fast, but we were able to accommodate her family members who were at risk as well. She was extremely grateful for the service we provided her and complimented that we truly helped break down barriers to access care. It always brings a smile to my face when I know I've helped someone and served my mission.

"Knowing that I'm fully operating in my calling and my purpose to serve communities and help others keeps me motivated. It's fulfilling and rewarding to know that I am making an impact not only on the people I see daily, but the world at large. The genuine support, encouragement and prayers of my family and friends keeps me going. Because of my faith and support system, I'm feeling recharged and full of hope, positivity, resilience, love, and light. I am extremely grateful!"

ChiChi Okpaleke AKA Dr. Chi

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Chi

Family Medicine Physician
Tampa, FL

"Initially, as a physician, self-care was honestly not on my list of things to consider when being on the frontline in combating COVID-19. My concerns were very patient-centered, and making sure they were being treated appropriately. But it took reality to set in for me to realize that if I am not healthy, how will I be able to treat my patients effectively? These last several weeks have been stressful and I needed to buckle down and control my mental health.

"It's easy to get caught in the panic mode with all the media outlets and uncertainty on what the future holds, but I found for me that my faith never fails me. I vowed to be intentional with my mental, physical, and spiritual health; purposely integrating my workouts with yoga, prayer, and meditation. Even with all the chaos and noise, this is an opportune time to personally slow down and embrace the process of life.

"Even through this storm, a simple moment of hearing my nephews pray with the family on the phone, really made my heart smile. My family motivates me to keep striving in medicine. I'm inspired to continue to treat patients, because I know they deserve someone they can trust with their health, especially during difficult times like these. Life is hard, but the bright side is 'This Too Shall Pass.'"

Sheena Williams

Registered Nurse
Philadelphia, PA

"I have been maintaining a sleep schedule by staying active during the day and having nightly dance fitness workouts on IG live. I think it's important to have a schedule and not get into the habit of being up very late and throwing off your body. When I feel anxious or overwhelmed I pray or meditate and just list the things I'm grateful for to get my mind off of the chaos.

"I think this time home is a blessing in disguise. I rarely have time to watch a favorite show, read a book or work out. This time home has helped me achieve goals, sort through life and force me to be still. I'm enjoying time with my son and the random moments I have to read a book or relax.

"I'm motivated by my son. He needs me more than ever. I'm also motivated by my patients. They need me, so I have to stay healthy and positive for them. Our lives and how we do things will change forever, we have to support each other."

​Brittany Grimes

Photo Courtesy of Brittany Grimes

Registered Nurse
Nashville, TN

"As a full-time travel nurse, I'm used to having four days off a weeks to run errands, relax and spend some QT with myself. However, with everything shut down, I can't leave the house for anything more than groceries. So, I started doing yoga and it has been a game-changer for me! I do it every morning on my off days and every night before the days I work. I am less tense, I sleep better, get up earlier and I'm more productive. NAMASTE, sis! I have also found a way to stay creative during this time by practicing calligraphy (modernly knows as 'hand-lettering'). I get lost in it for hours at a time and it makes me so happy. Oddly enough, having to be in the house during this pandemic has made me a lot more active. Although it is stressful, I am grateful.

"As an ICU nurse, I rarely get the chance to talk and interact with my sedated patients. My brightest moment recently was with a woman who had a tracheostomy. She had just gotten her speaking valve and was finally able to eat. I sat with her, fed her, brushed her teeth, combed hair and we talked. Boy, did she talk! Before that, I was having the craziest day, but after watching her hear her own voice again, none of that mattered.

"Being able to see a critical patient make a complete turnaround at the hands of my coworkers and I is what keeps me going. It is not easy and I cry more than I like to share but I will never take it for granted."

Kristamarie Collman

Photo Courtesy of Kristamarie Collman

Family Medicine Physician

"In medicine, the mental and physical demands of the profession can be extremely challenging and tiring. Coronavirus and COVID-19 have added increased stress and uncertainty and therefore it's more important now than ever for me to look after myself. As the saying goes, you have to 'secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.' At the end of the day, I cannot be the best doctor for my patients if I'm not performing at my physical and mental best. To do this, I try to keep a healthy diet, incorporate physical activity, and get regular sleep and rest. With constant reports being released daily about deaths and illness associated with COVID-19, it's important to protect my mental space by scheduling media and social media breaks.

"This is where a period of time where I silence my phones, disconnect from social media and turn the TV off. I use this time to either read for pleasure, journal my feelings, take a mindful walk or simply meditate to check in with my body, reflect and quiet my mind. I have also turned to activities which I used to practice when I was younger but lost touch with during my schooling and training. These activities include playing my old guitar and learning choreographed dance, both of which help me to unwind and brings me joy.

"Throughout the chaos, there have been moments that made my heart smile. A friend of the family is aware that I work in medicine and that we are experiencing a nationwide shortage of equipment such as masks. I came home unexpectedly to a package filled with a few hand-sewn masks along with a thank you note for being a doctor during this time. It reminded me that even in distressed times, human good can still prevail.

"I am constantly asked what motivates me and pushes me to keep going. For one, I know my purpose is so much bigger than me. I know that I'm helping to pave the way for many other individuals who are coming along on the journey to medicine. I am also helping people in a very real way every time I go into work.

"Sometimes I'm the first doctor they have seen in years or the first black female physicians patients have had or either way, I'm helping them in some way and they show appreciation. I will admit, I am also intrigued by the fact that I am experiencing and living through a pandemic and want to be able to tell my future children their mom was helping on the front lines!"

Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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